Anarchy Man!

thin line

The Anarchist Encyclopedia:
A Gallery of Saints & Sinners ...

thin line

// --

Félix Fénéon


French art critic, novelist, anarchist

A friend of Seurat, Paul Signac, Théo van Rysselberghe, Henri-Edmond Cross, Andre Gide, et al.

A kind of cultural "terrorist" who may have been involved in terrorist acts of a less literary nature (one biographer claims he actually bombed a restaurant).

Standing from left to right: Félix Fénéon, Henri Gheon. Seated, left to right: Feliz Le Dantec, Emile Verhaeren, Francis Viele-Griffen, Henri-Edmond Cross, Andre Gide, Maurice Maeterlinck.

Biographical/historical notes:

Thadee Natanson sat in the audience during the Process de Trente of August 1894 & took notes on the proceedings. He was so impressed by Felix Feneon's performance at this trial of anarchist intellectuals & militants, as well as by his earlier art criticism, that he hired him for the "Revue Blanche" staff after the trial. & Feneon soon became its editor in chief, a position he retained until the journal ceased publication in 1903.

29 février Mort du critique d’art Félix Fénéon. Militant libertaire jusqu’à la révolution soviétique il avait collaboré à de nombreuses revues et assuré momentanément la direction de "L’En Dehors" la revue de Zo D'Axa.

  • 1940-1944
  • At the exhibition at the Grand Palais: there is a documentary side to all exhibitions that look at both painters & writers.

    Verhaeren was painted by many of the artists he knew, notably by Theo van Rysselberghe (his Pointillist portrait is at the Orsay show). The same painter's ''La Lecture'' (1903) could be seen as the key to the whole show, as Verhaeren reads to a small group that includes the Frenchmen Andre Gide & Felix Feneon as well as the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck, whose ''Pelleas et Melisande'' was the basis for Debussy's opera.

    "OK, then, let's think of agricultural machinery, many kitchen appliances, a karateka's fist, a guard dog, a motor boat, a seadoo, a bow, a chainsaw, any electrical or gaz appliance, a bicycle, a vibro-masseur, many sado-masochist appliances, a penis*, etc, etc.

    *To anarchist Felix Feneon charged with illegally carying a firearm, the judge said:

    "You know you had on you everything you need to commit a murder?"

    Feneon replied:

    "Yes, but I also had on me everything I needed to commit a rape."

    wiki: Félix Fénéon An habitue of Montmartre was the anarchist champion of the avant-garde, the art critic Felix Feneon, a kind of cultural "terrorist" who may have been involved in terrorist acts of a less literary nature (one of his biographers claims he actually bombed a restaurant). Incredibly, Feneon was a bureaucrat in the War Ministry by day, bohemian dandy and anarchist art critic by night.

    ? Félix Fénéon (1861-1944) was a French anarchist, editor, and art critic in Paris during the late 1800's. Born in Turin, he moved to Paris at the age of 20 to work for the Ministry of Defense. He attended the Impressionist exhibition in 1886, later coining the term "Neo-Impressionism" to define the movement led by Georges Seurat. He was the first french publisher to publish James Joyce. In 1892, the French police searched his apartment, claiming him to be an active anarchist. That summer, along with other intellectuals and artists, Fénéon was placed on trial, a case which is now know as The Trial of the Thirty. Although the charges were dismissed, he was discharged from the Ministry of Defense. Famously painted by Paul Signac, the painting now hangs in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

    Decades before the rise of "flash fiction," Félix Fénéon mastered the art of flash nonfiction in the 1,220 short items he wrote for a Paris newspaper in 1906. Collected and published in book form after his death, Fénéon's miniature masterpieces of irony and suspense are a tour de force of Pointillist prose. From adultery, murder, revenge, and traffic accidents to tax collection, labor unrest, suicides, and the occasional well-deserved celebration, daily life in France a century ago was as unexpectedly comic and tragic as anywhere else. But only a cultural figure as central yet self-effacing as Fénéon--quiet dandy and secret anarchist, champion of Seurat and first publisher of Lautréamont, translator of Poe and Jane Austen--could have transformed newspaper hackwork into a modernist mosaic that captures the particular details of a place and an age with such exquisite timing and humor. Novels in Three Lines not only anticipates literary "ready-mades" like Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project and Andy Warhol's a: a novel; it is a unique artifact from the golden age of the newspaper and a window into France in 1906 on the cusp of modernity.

    a.k.a., Maggie Balistreri

    Men Who Look Like Lesbians


    Our Times

    By Felix Feneon

    Felix Feneon was a fin de siecle aesthete and anarchist. I'd love it if newspapers revived this style of reporting the news. If you like Feneon's work, be sure to check out the work of Karl Kraus. Harry Zohn translates Kraus in Half-Truths and One-and-a-Half Truths. The better book on Kraus is by the great Thomas Szasz, called Anti-Freud. Although, for that matter, the better book by Szasz is The Dissenting Tongue.

    Below are Felix Feneon's news items, translated by Edward Morris for Evergreen Review, vol.4, no.13, 1960:


    Scatching it with a hair-triggered revolver, Mr. Ed... B... removed the end of his nose, in the Vivienne police station.

    Falling from a scaffolding at the same time as Mr.Dury, stone-mason, of Marseille, a stone crushed his skull.

    Louis Lamarre had neither work nor lodging; but he did have a few coppers. he bought a quart of kerosene from a grocer in Saint Denis, and drank it.

    A madwoman of Puechabon (Herault), Mrs. Bautiol, nee Herail, used a club to awaken her parents-in-law.

    At finding her son Hyacinth, 69, hanged, Mrs. Ranvier, of Bussy-Saint-Georges, was so depressed she couldn't cut the rope.

    In Essoyes (Aube), Bernard, 25, bludeoned Mr. Dufert, who is 89, and stabbed his wife. He was jealous.

    In Brest, thanks to a smoker's carelessness, Miss Ledru, all done up in tulle, was badly burned on thighs and breasts.

    In Djiajelli, a thirteen-year-old virgin, propositioned by a lewd rake of ten, did him in with three knife-blows.

    Scissors in hand, Marie le Goeffic was playing on a swing. So that, falling, she punctured her abdomen. In Bretonneau.

    Not finding his daughter of 19 austere enough, the Saint-Etienne jewler Jallat killed her. He still, it is true, has eleven other children.

    "What! all those children perched on my wall?" With eight shots, Mr. Olive, a Toulon property-owner made them scramble down, covered with blood.

    Marie Jandeau, a handsome girl well known to many gentlemen of Toulon, suffocated in her room last night, on purpose.

    A Nancy dishwasher, Vital Frerotte, recently returned from Lourdes forever cured of tuberculosis, died, on Sunday, by mistake.

    Miss Verbeau did manage to hit Marie Champion, in the breast, but she burned her own eye, for a bowl of vitriol is not an accurate weapon.

    At skittles apoplexy felled Mr. Andre, 75, of Levallois. While his bowl was still rolling, he ceased to be.

    All material copyright © 1999, 2000 by the authors. Material may not be reprinted without prior written permission. Further protected by Brooklyn copyright law: Rip me off, I'll rip your arm off.

    [no longer online,, so I'm chancing they'll not get my cyber-arms anytime soon — ed.]

    Félix Fénéon and Pointillism

    Félix Fénéon was born in Turin. In 1881 he took a post in Paris at the Ministry of Defense. He was tall, with a thin angular face, goat beard, piercing eyes of uncertain grayish-blue color with golden sparkles. 'Mysterious', 'enigmatic', 'Mephistopheles-like', 'demonic' - these were epithets used with the name of this person.

    'His sharp mind, bright and forecasting, troubled people. The self-insurance with which he related his ideas, shocking in their originality, exasperated his listeners and gave birth to vague, disturbing, anxious feeling of their own incompetence and inferiority,' wrote Henri Perruchot.

    As soon as Félix Fénéon appeared at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886, at which Seurat's La Grande Jatte was shown, he immediately estimated the historical importance of the new art technique. The future generations will remember 1886, because the age of Manet and Impressionism had come to its logical end and the age of Neo-Impressionism began, stated Félix Fénéon.

    'Neo-Impressionism' was the term, introduced by him to denote the new movement, it showed on one hand its connection with Impressionism, which experimented with light and color, and on the other hand denoted the new style with its 'conscious and scientific' approach towards the problems of color and light. The 'bull confusion', so Fénéon called the reaction of the public to the unusual technique of Seurat, Signac and other Pointillists.

    Actually he was the only critic who "proved capable of articulating an appreciation of Seurat's picture, and the new method of painting it exemplified, in words notable for their objective tone." (Hajo Düchting. Seurat. The Master of Pointillism.) Félix Fénéon defined to the public the idea that stood behind the new techniques,

    "If one looks at any uniformly shaded area in Seurat's Grande Jatte, one can find on every centimeter of it a swirling swarm of small dots which contains all the elements which comprise the color desired. Take that patch of lawn in the shade; most of the dots reflect the local colors of the grass, others, orange-colored and much scarcer, express the barely perceptible influence of the sun; occasional purple dots establish the complementary color of green; a cyanine blue, necessitated by an adjacent patch of lawn in full sunlight, becomes increasingly dense closer to the borderline, but beyond this line gradually loses in intensity… Juxtaposed on the canvas but yet distinct, the colors reunite on the retina: hence we have before us not a mixture of pigment colors but a mixture of variously colored rays of light."

    Fénéon's love for art was absolute, and even formed his political tastes. The failure by the "bourgeois" society to understand the real artists, its admiration with commonplace hacks, 'sugary masters of schools and academies', and its accusation of new and fresh trends — all this was enough for Fénéon to justify the destruction of that society. Fénéon approved of Anarchistic propaganda, even its extreme forms, which called for action using bombs.

    Some works by Impressionists hang on the walls of his study in the Ministry of Defense. Later, when Anarchists' terrorist attacks shocked France, some explosives would be found in the same study.

    Strange as it might seem to us now, many artists, including Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro and Lucien Pissarro, Maximilien Luce, Théo van Rysselberghe, and others not only justified and glorified Anarchists, but supported them financially.

    Signac wrote that once Fénéon analyzed the logic of Anarchists' attacks: the one at the stock exchange was against the bourgeoisie, others were against the army, deputies, representatives of power, one more seemed most strange and illogical, because it involved innocent civilians. Fénéon denoted the last attack as an act against electors. He considered that the terrorist act against electors was the most 'anarchistic' because electors were more guilty than the elected, who only fulfill the electors' will.

    In March of 1892 French police talked about Fénéon as an 'active Anarchist', they had him shadowed. In April his apartment and office in the Military Ministry were searched. Police found some explosives and Fénéon was arrested and imprisoned. Preliminary investigation ended on June 8, and the case was handed down to the jury.

    In summer of 1892 Fénéon together with other intellectuals, publishers and journalists of the Anarchists' media, among others was Maximilien Luce, appeared in court. The case was called the Trial of the Thirty ["Procès des trente"]. All the arguments the police gave against the thirty did not meet jury's approval and on August 12, Fénéon and the majority of the other defendants were discharged.

    Despite the discharge the police didn't believe in Fénéon's innocence. Once the prefect told Mme Fénéon who came to complain that the police continued shadowing her husband, "Madam, I'm sorry to say this, but you've married a killer.'"

    The Military Ministry fired M Fénéon, of course. His lawyer T. Natanson, offered him a post as editorial secretary of his "La Revue Blanche". He worked for the magazine until 1903, and also organized exhibitions. In 1906-1925 Fénéon was the Director of the Bernheim-Jeune art gallery. His sharp remarks and snobbism towards 'bad taste' might have repelled customers, but his unmistakable sense for real art, his inability to cheat while selling items of art attracted them. If he offered to buy an item of art, it meant that he admired it himself. 

    In 1925, when Fénéon was 63, he said to one of his friends, 'I am ready for idleness' and left the gallery. Publishers and art historians attacked him with offers to write memoirs, Fénéon refused. He refused to re-issue his only book Impressionism in 1886, refused to issue a collection of his journalistic essays. He prepared a catalogue of Seurat's works, but refused to put his name as the author.

    'It's so silly to go on living, when you're 78 (or 79, or 80, or 81)' he often said. During his last year he burnt all the documents and papers he had in his possession and presented most of his collection to friends.

    Félix Fénéon died on February 29, 1944.

    This text, with minor modifications, from

    Select Bibliography:

    • Félix Fénéon (editor) Will Arts from Remote Places Be Admitted into the Louvre? 1920
    • Félix Fénéon, Aesthete & Anarchist in Fin-de-siècle Paris. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in biography. French edition, Paris: Gallimard, Feb. 1991.
    • Felix Feneon & the Language of Art Criticism, ser. Studies in the Fine Arts: Criticism, No. 6. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1980.
    • Félix Fénéon, OEuvres Plus que complètes vol. I Chroniques d'art; vol. II: Les Lettres, les Moeurs, edited with an introduction by Joan U. Halperin. Geneva: Droz, 1970.
    • Presentation by Halperin: "Inventing Neo-Impressionism: Seurat & Félix Fénéon," Symposium, Seurat, the Last Landscapes, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Nov. 3, 1990.
    • Paris and the Anarchists: Aesthetes and Subversives During the Fin de Siècle by Alexander Varias
      Reviewed by: Robert Graham

      page created March 2007

      Use your back button to return to your previous page,

      The Anarchist Encyclopedia | Daily Bleed Calendar | The Stan Iverson Archives | The Anarchist Timeline

      anti-CopyRite 1997-3000, more or less

      Questions, suggestions, additions, corrections to David Brown at

      The Anarchist Encyclopedia is freely sponsored & produced by Recollection Used Books

      Cat Has Had the Time of His LifeRecollection Used Books Logo